Woman charged in death of Mexican man in Martinsburg

March 14, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Ashley Nicole Carpegna
Ashley Nicole Carpegna

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A woman charged Friday as an accessory in the March 6 homicide of a Winchester, Va., man near Martinsburg first met the victim hours earlier at a strip club in Berkeley County where she danced, police said Monday.

Ashley Nicole Carpegna, 26, of 2998 Winchester Ave., Apt. 10, in Martinsburg, is charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact of murder, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Police on Monday released a photograph of Carpegna and asked for the public’s help in finding her. She might be in the Hagerstown or Martinsburg area, where she has friends, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ted Snyder said during a press conference.

Geronimo Garcia-Cruz, 26, of 102 Camden Drive, was pronounced dead at Suncrest Apartments shortly after he was shot at close range with a small-caliber gun, Snyder said.

Garcia-Cruz was found in a stairwell at Suncrest Apartments at about 6:25 a.m. by a neighbor, police said.

The shooting happened in Carpegna’s second-floor residence between 6 and 6:25 a.m., and police suspect a man who was staying at her apartment shot Garcia-Cruz, according to Berkeley County Sheriff’s deputies investigating the homicide.

Carpegna and the “person of interest” suspected of shooting Garcia-Cruz were arrested last week on unrelated drug charges in Washington County, Snyder said.

Carpegna was charged with six drug-related offenses and released Sunday after bail for a $75,000 bond was posted, according to court records and police.

The person of interest remains incarcerated in Maryland, Snyder said.

“The puzzle pieces are there; we can see the picture. We just don’t have all the pieces to put it finally together,” Snyder said.

Before the shooting, Garcia-Cruz and one of two men who went with him to the strip club negotiated some sort of “illicit informal business agreement” with Carpegna, Snyder said. One of the men was Garcia-Cruz’s roommate, Snyder said.

After leaving the strip club, the men went to Carpegna’s home as part of the deal, but Snyder said he could not say why the victim was shot and not the others.  

“It’s hard to speculate what the shooter was thinking,” Snyder said. “I have no idea why he chose the deceased over the other people.”

After the shooting, police say Carpegna was heard instructing an unnamed male to remove the victim’s body from her apartment, according to court records.

In an interview with investigators, police say Carpegna admitted to concealing and/or destroying evidence in and around her apartment that contained blood evidence before police arrived, according to court records.  

The murder weapon has not been found, police said Monday.

Police determined Garcia-Cruz, a Mexican citizen, was living illegally in the U.S. for about six years, Snyder said. The victim’s roommate, another Mexican citizen, is not legally allowed to be in the U.S., either, Snyder said.
Garcia-Cruz had been living at the Camden Drive residence for about a month, Snyder said. The residence was searched by police last week with the assistance of the Frederick County (Va.) Sheriff’s Department, Snyder said.

Arrangements were being made to return the victim’s body to Mexico for burial, Snyder said. The Hispanic community in Winchester helped police find the victim’s sister there and notify her of her brother’s death, Snyder said.

Deputies said Carpegna hasn’t danced at the club since the shooting. Snyder declined to identify the club, crediting the business for being very cooperative with investigators.

Police said Carpegna admitted to being a heroin user when interviewed about the shooting, Snyder said.  

Carpegna is scheduled to appear April 6 in Washington County District Court in Hagerstown for a preliminary hearing on the drug charges, according to the state of Maryland’s online judiciary case search database.

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